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I want to talk to you today about a quite killer, one so stealthy and smooth it could teach tricks to a ninja on sneaky ways to slip up on the target and take them out. It is called complacency and it kills more people every year than car crashes. Where does this killer come from? Is it a virus that spreads through contact? Is it a STD that you catch from a mat rat that doesn’t bathe properly? No, what it is a lifestyle choice that is transmitted through being too damn comfortable in your lifestyle.
You have become a victim of your own safety and security. The everyday sameness of your life have become so humdrum you have let your guard down and the patterns and rhythms have become your cracked glass walls of normalcy. One of the great things about make your living by pissing people off is that you grow accustomed to people trying to get back at you. Not taking the same route home, watching everything around you and staying on edge every time you walk out the door. The few times I have been hurt are the times I let my guard down. They all stemmed from altercations that occurred in a different location and I in my grand stupidity let complacency lead me into taking an ass whipping. So don’t go getting all butt hurt and mad because I am throwing rocks at you while living in a glass house. I am writing to you from experience and trying to impart some wisdom. My goal is to shake you up a bit and make you look at what you are doing and examine it to find the flaws and correct them, and hopefully find mine as well.
We all fall into habits and patterns, it’s a simple truth, and one that honestly no one can be blamed for. It’s easy to do. Get up at the same time every day, go to work, come home, day in day out. Patterns become habits and good or bad they become the norm. I know that since I retired from the violence trades and went to work in a normal job, (if working in a county jail is normal) I found how easy that kind of lifestyle can become. You do the same thing at the gym, train with the same guys at the dojo, eating the same thing day in day out and next thing you know you are in a situation that surprises you. You expect a person to act or respond in one way and they do something so completely off the wall that your mind can’t comprehend whats happening and you are up to your eyeballs in a cluster-fuck.
I see this a lot of times with police officers and security people. They become complacent in their on duty time. They respond to the same families home time and time again and they get so used to the script that they never see the 12 year old kid with the shotgun till it is too late. There have been several incidents earlier this year where an officer was shot sitting in his patrol car doing reports. They may have been sitting in the same spot time and time again to do this and it came back to haunt them. I am not condemning these officers but the truth is they became complacent behind the authority of the badge and it added to their deaths. The world has changed dramatically folks and it will never be the same.
Look at your life with a magnifying glass. Where have you let yourself become a self-victim of your own patterns and habits? Is it in the places that you feel most secure and safe? Is it at the dojo or training studio? Is it at work with nothing really exciting has happened for the past few months and it is all hum drum and day to day? These are the places that you need to try and break that patterns that you have fallen into. Get with your training partners, training officers, and your family time and throw monkey wrenches into your day to day machine.
My ex-wife would get madder than a baptized cat when I would run fire drills in the middle of the night. Till we smelled smoke one night while we were asleep. We got the kids and ourselves out of the house in less than a minute. It was a grass fire across the road thank God, but she then saw the benefits of not staying complacent. If you’re a police officer what are you doing to keep from becoming complacent in your day to day procedures, are you just going through the motions and falling in the same trap that leads to you no going home. Have you security personal slipped into the pattern of walking the fence or patrolling your property the same way every night. Going through the motions of checking everything at the same time and same pattern, making yourself into an easy target. This is the kind of complacency that become the killer in your life.
Look at your training at the dojo or hall that you attend. What can you do to break up the monotony of your training? Do you run the same drills the same way every time you? Are you doing any outside work in different climates and on different ground surfaces? Are you using ambush tactics as part of your work training program? These are simple fixes and just take a small effort and dark since of humor to change the entire pattern. See how many of your fellow coworkers can and would be willing to play a game of pepper ball tag? Follow off duty personal to the houses and tag their cars with modeling clay and if they don’t find it by the time they get to work they owe you a beer. Its things like this that help you change your perspective and make you realize just how dangerous living the same way every day is dangerous.
One game I play with the few guys I teach is called knock out. We put on pads, headgear and boxing gloves. It’s an action/reaction game or drill. I stand within arm’s reach of the student and if I can punch them in the face before they can block me they owe me 25 pushups or burpees. No, I do not try and knock them out for real but I am trying to teach them that distance equals time and time equals safety. We also train a version of tag. We each get small post it notes with the word stab on them. At any time if you can ghost up on a partner and tag him with the post it note without him stopping you, they owe you a beer. These are again just simple thing to do to help and break the habits you may have developed over a period of time.
Remember there are graveyards full of people who weren’t paranoid enough.
It is a common misconception that, in a street or criminal subculture, there are no rules. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every successful culture and organization must have rules, both unspoken and implicit. Without them, it becomes a free for all, and the effects of this free for all would limit the ability of the cultures to operate and survive. Some of the effects these rules try to avoid are police involvement, collateral damage to civilians, harm to those in the group, and distracting power struggles both within and between differing groups.
The main difference between ‘regular’ cultural rules and the various street cultures is enforcement and understanding. Especially to some involved, there is not always a clear understanding of why certain rules exist. Because of this, there is usually some friction between established members and newer members of the group, until either an explanation is given, or more often, the rule is ignored, and an enforcement action is implemented.
One of the most sacred rules is to not screw over or cheat your own kind. Otherwise known as ‘don’t shit where you sleep’.
The reason for this is many. When you can’t trust the system, trust in your group is more important than usual. Also, it limits interpersonal conflict in the group, which takes time and resources from the important things the group is involved in. When this rule is broken, enforcement/punishment is handled within the group, and is fairly quick, and usually brutal in its execution. The usual is a beatdown or public humiliation of some sort. But, depending on the seriousness of the infraction, and the rank or position of the individual cheated, it can be creative, and much longer lasting.
An example. There was once a young man brought into a group, and allowed to stay with them in an apartment instead of on the street. This young man decided to rob the apartment renters jewelry to feed his drug habit. In these cultures, someone who provides shelter, food, mentorship, and care is pretty high on the list. This was a major violation of the groups rules, and demanded big punishment. The initial punishment administered was a series of beat downs, done randomly. Wherever he went, people, seemingly out of the blue would assault him. Not feloniously, to where police would get involved, but often enough that he never healed from the prior beating. But, this was only the beginning, as the rule he broke was a major one, it needed to be enforced, and an example made to show others why you do not violate this rule. Punishment was decided on, and parties were contacted to get the enforcement action in gear.
What was decided on was this. Since drugs were the driving factor in the “crime”, the major dealers in the downtown area agreed to cut him off. He could not get his fix in the downtown area any longer. For an addict without reliable transportation, this is a living nightmare. You must go further and further away from your base to acquire your drugs, which takes time and money. it also makes you go into ‘enemy’ territory,and deal with dealers who are not your contacts, that will not hesitate to jack you. This lasted until the young man moved on to another state, but his reputation will follow him, and he is marked in that particular circle.
It is important to point out that these cultures are not limited to a specific city or state, contacts exist and word spreads. And sometimes, punishment will be administered in a different city if the person runs, thinking distance will keep him safe.
There was a gutter punk at one time that was fairly respected, pulled his weight and contributed to his tribe, taking care of younger members and the like. Until his addiction took control. He became predatory among his own group, strong arming and bullying in order to up his supply. Another example of crapping in his nest. Unfortunately, he targeted an affiliate of the group, not a member, which is a fairly respected position, and usually off limits to this kind of thing. In the process of trying to strong arm this affiliate, he broke her arm. Knowing this was a major violation of all rules, and would bring a lot of heat, he chose to leave town, boarding a Greyhound bus.
Unfortunately for him, he was watched, and his destination was passed on to the interested parties. Calls were made, favors exchanged, and when the gutter punk in question stepped off the bus three states away, he was beaten and hospitalized as he was leaving the bus station. There was an above average viciousness to his punishment for two reasons, one was for who he injured, based on who she knew, and second, for leaving like a coward and not facing group justice. A message had to be sent that running would not protect you, and the arm of the group reached far.
Sometimes rules exist with multiple groups, to ensure the safety and protection of a wide range of people. Certain drugs and dealers are not allowed in an area, for example, in order to limit the damage. Bath Salts were one of these drugs, due to the danger they presented to users.
Enter a multiple rules violation situation, which shows how serious, widespread, and important these rules are across the different groups in a given area.
First rule, no Bath Salts in the downtown area, second rule, no sexual assault, third rule, don’t lie to your own, fourth rule, take care of your people. In the summer of 2014, one person violated all these rules, and brought punishment not just on himself, but on his entire group for his actions, as sometimes punishment is group instead of individually distributed due to the nature of the offense.
In a nutshell, a street level dealer got in a shipment of Bath Salts. He got high, decided to kidnap a street girl, rape her, forcibly get her high on the Salts repeatedly, and beat her. This street girl was with another man at the time. When he let her go, she was in a catatonic state, and has to this day not recovered her sanity, and nobody knows how many doses of Salts the dealer forced on her. This was one of the most heartbreaking things to have occurred on the streets of this particular city, as the girl was fairly popular, her man was working to get them off the street, and it looked as if they would escape the ‘life’.
So, needless to say, the reaction was swift and very violent. In one night, there were a series of felony and aggravated assaults along the corridor this group operated from. Not just beatings, I’m talking serious assaults doing grievous injury to the receivers. Anyone affiliated with this dealer was the target, as well as other dealers known to or bragged about having Salts for sale. Oddly enough, there was no interference from outside groups or even the police during this night. Rarely, various groups understand the need for looking the other way in order to accomplish a greater good. As long as the parameters of the hunt were obeyed, another example of rules enforcement, business could be taken care of.
It was understood that there were limited targets and time frame, and it was not a free for all. As far as the main target, he was located, taken to a different location, and nobody would comment further. This was one of the more extreme enforcement actions I have witnessed, but it shows multiple things. What some of the rules are, how people are valued in this culture, how much enforcement is left to these groups, and how cooperation can exist between even normal enemies to accomplish a goal.
Ok, now let us leave the street culture and go to another place that civilians think rules don’t apply to them at best, or don’t exist at worst… the topless bar! Yay, let’s go get drunk or high, oogle young women, let our inhibitions go, and nothing bad will happen, there will be no repercussions…
In a word, bullshit. The reason for bouncers and security staff are to enforce the rules of the establishment. As in the street and criminal subcultures, some of these rules are implicit and some are unspoken, but should be obvious to anyone with an above room temperature IQ.
A rule as simple as don’t go in the dancers locker room. Seems pretty obvious, but a surprising number of men thinks it applies to everyone but themselves, and this has caused me more fights than almost anything else in this setting. Another rule repeatedly violated is the do not touch the girls rule. Not only do most of the girls find you creepy and old, therefore not wanting you to touch them, it is actually illegal for the bar to allow this to go on. It can lead to prostitution and pandering charges, and ultimately close the bar down, and yet…
Now, most violations of these rules are handled by you being ejected from the establishment. If it was a bad violation, you may be 86’d permanently.
But there are some rules that will be enforced with an extra dose of violence when they are broken.
One of these rules is to not mess with the staff. Bartenders, wait staff and DJ’s are the lifeblood of a strip club. Dancers come and go, and sometimes come back, and are the face of the establishment, but the support staff makes the business run, keeps the party going, and brings in the money. Interfering with their ability to do their jobs, threatening them, or actually assaulting them are a good way of discovering pain and injury that you never would have thought of on your own. Another big no-no is to target vehicles in the bars parking lot for theft or breaking in. This leads to customers not feeling safe and welcome, which dries up the money flow. If you are caught doing this, there will be no quarter given, and you will learn that the bouncers know which angles and areas the security cameras do not cover…
Notice how most of the rules for a bar in general, and especially a topless bar are geared around money coming in. How serious would you be about enforcing your ability to make money and provide for your family. Now, imagine the ferocity a group of people will bring to that, it would not be a good thing to interfere with. In this world, it is all about protecting the resources. This is simple to understand, but is manifested in different ways. The established dealer in the bar will have a degree of protection from the staff, in order to keep a calm and quiet proceeding to the business being handled. Regulars will be afforded more respect and have more influence than off the street customers, as they are members of the ‘family’, and are part of the resource train.
Another thing that I found surprising was the number of ‘normal’ people that don’t understand the importance of manners and proper etiquette in underground cultures. These manners all exist to grease the interactions between various and opposing factions and people, too make things easier, and avoid needless conflict. Violation of these simple manners will be addressed very quickly in order to stop any unwanted attention and to keep worse violence from happening. Trust me, you don’t want to be the one that the example is made of as to why these rules exist.
If you must go to, or happen to find yourself in one of these areas, stay calm, don’t panic, and generally just stay quiet. Everyone there knows you are not a regular, or inhabitant of said culture, and will treat you accordingly. You may take some guff or verbal challenges, but in general, physical violence will only come if you really screw the pooch. The surest way to guarantee you will have enforcement brought to you is by insisting on the rules from your home or culture be dominant in your new surroundings. This is a particular form of arrogance brought mostly by young men, and oddly enough, middle class visitors to an area. For real, folks, don’t be that guy. Your safety is in your hands, and is very simple to affect, behave yourself, don’t be an ass, and be quick to apologize or explain if called on the carpet for making a mistake.
The human world is based around rules. For society, these rules come in the form of laws and regulations governing peoples’ behavior. For individuals, these rules are based on how we want others to behave toward us. And also a set of personal guidelines on how we should behave toward others.
Society’s rules come with a description of what constitutes the rule along with instructions on how the rule is to be enforced when violated. On the other hand, our personal set of behavioral rules are unclear. They are more or less based on our feelings. How these rules are communicated and enforced depends a lot upon the particular circumstances we find ourselves in. As a practical matter, for most of us, how we deal with our own rules is made up on the spot. We wing it. We play it by ear.
When it comes to society’s rules, we expect them to be enforced in a manner that is independent of gender, race, religion, social class, etc. We expect the rules to be fair to everyone regardless of “who” they are. But when it comes to our own rules, it is the exact opposite. Most of the time, we decide how we will enforce our own rules based on how we feel about the violator. And how we feel about someone is usually tied into their gender, race, religion, social class, etc. In fact, we deal with our own rules in the exact opposite manner that we expect society to handle its rules.
Most of our rules revolve around our personal sense of fairness and respect. We are very conscious of how other people treat us. We expect to be treated fairly and respectfully. When this doesn’t happen, we feel we have been violated. We now desire to enforce the violation. To what degree the violation is enforced depends upon to what degree we feel we have been violated and/or disrespected.
The problem is, that depending upon who we are dealing with, the very same event, can be perceived differently. People in more respected social classes are given more leeway than those in lower social classes. Lower social classes usually contain minorities, the poor, the less educated, people with disabilities, etc. Depending upon the situation, women can be in a lower class. Sometimes, they are in a higher class. Attractive people are usually placed in a higher class. Unattractive people are usually placed in a lower class. There can also be class distinction along tribal lines, where anyone outside the tribe is placed into a lower class.
When someone in a higher class commits a violation against someone in a lower class, the violation is seen as less severe. It is more likely that the violation will be perceived as unintended or a mis-understanding. The associated enforcement and punishment will be less. On the other hand, when someone in a lower class commits a violation against someone in a higher class, it is seen as a great injustice. It is less likely to be perceived as a mistake. It is more likely to be perceived as a deliberate violation deserving harsh punishment.
To put it plainly, people in higher classes get away with a lot more than those in lower classes. They are more lightly punished. Many are also quick to perceive themselves as being “disrespected” by someone in a lower class. Many of them are quick to be disrespectful of those in lower classes, but don’t notice their own transgressions.
When it comes to dealing with interpersonal conflicts, people in higher classes are usually able to “get away” with a lot more than those in lower classes. What works for them doesn’t necessarily work for everybody. Lower classes are more likely to receive a backlash from their personal enforcement actions. Particularly, if a lower class person is trying to enforce a violation from a higher class person.
Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that if you find yourself getting instruction on conflict management strategies and tactics, social classes matter.
If the instructor is in a higher class, what works for him or her may not work for you. He or she may be able to do and say things that are perceived differently than if you did or said the exact same thing. Sometimes, an action from one person may be perceived as appropriate enforcement and create the desired effect. But this very same action, from another person, may be perceived as Over-Enforcement and bring about an unwanted backlash.
When it comes to effective conflict management, it is critical to take into consideration the dynamics of social classes between the involved parties when assessing what type of response to make.
As a species we have evolved into the most rule governed of creatures. The other night my wife brought a couple of books home from work to check something for a case she had in court the next day, they were about 4 inches thick and heavily bound, Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences, 2 volumes full of complicated laws and this is just for traffic offences. I dread to think how vast a library is needed to house all the laws that govern life in the UK or any other nation for that matter. Then there is a whole industry that has grown around creating, maintaining and enforcing these laws.
All these laws have to be created and there are tens of thousands of civil servants, consultants, specialists in a cornucopia of industries and trades, academics and researchers too. Just think how many jobs are dependent on enforcing the laws, security personal, law enforcement officers, probation officers, solicitors, judges, prison officers. For all these people crime creates work, without lawbreakers what would we do.
Here we are talking about the the constitutional, civil and criminal laws that constitute the legal system in complex societies. These are rarely fixed but continually evolving as society evolves. A few years ago we knew little of drones, now drones are everywhere from the battlefield to the local park and so we need new laws to define how they can be used, who by, where and within what parameters. Then these new laws will need enforcing, we, I talk about the UK, have millions of articles of law on the statute books already, new laws are being introduced at a rate faster than we can get rid of old or out of date ones. There are so many laws they cannot be policed, it is impossible to police them all but we keep on thinking up new ones.
People break laws on an almost daily basis, look around, bet you see someone driving whilst using a phone, smoking in a company vehicle, parking illegally, using drugs illegally, I could go on. All around us crime is happening and nobody is doing anything about it. Most people will agree that for complex societies to function we need to have a legal framework, but most people will only obey the laws they want to obey and will ignore the ones they choose to because the odds of getting caught are slim.
Rules are not laws but also regulate behaviour, rules provide for a regularity of behaviour. Rules are social instructions that provide a framework for acceptable behaviours in social life, they are complex and evolving like laws but rather than imposed and enforced externally they are learned through the process of socialisation and internalised. In a narrower sense rule following is the production of a regularity in a person. They can choose to do other than follow the rule, they can exercise free will, but generally conformity is the easier route.
As a species we just love rules, our love of rules evolved with homo sapiens as they evolved biologically and culturally. Our early ancestors in all their primitive glory would have roamed the African savannah in small groups similar to troops of modern baboons, in simple societies simple rules will suffice, but throughout the millions of years of evolution our relationships with one another and with our world brought about many changes, some small but some vast and as bigger and more complex societies developed so did the need for more and more rules.
There are billions of interactions between billions of individuals every minute let alone everyday, rules and laws regulate these interactions on different levels, none of us even know how many rules we know or how they arose. Listening to the radio as I was ‘working’ earlier there was a guy on talking about etiquette, apparently you should keep three sets of bedding for each bed in the house, one in use, one ready for use and usually one in the wash…… Sounds good but we have 3 double beds and one single, that’s a lot of bedding.
Socialisation into the primitive world of early hominids would have most likely been like the socialisation of modern apes, very different to the socialisation of humans today process today.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately whilst watching our little dog Bertie. He is a cute little fellah but when we first got him when he was 8 months old, he used to shit and pee in the kitchen at night, he often stole socks and pants and chewed them, slippers were not safe with him around nor was toilet paper and an annoying habit of disappearing for ages whilst on walks.
So we gradually had to educate him on what we expected as appropriate behaviour, well it is not rocket science, we used the carrot and stick method, rewards with lots of praise when he did good, stern voice when he did bad. Fast forward a year later he is brilliant on walks, still running around sniffing everywhere but keeps an eye on where we are, we wake to a nice clean kitchen, he barks at us if he wants to go in the garden, rarely chews anything and he loves to play ball and he sits and waits next to his food until we give permission for him to eat. He is even cuter than before and he will tease to get attention. Whilst I work he curls up and sleeps in his bed.
Using the right tactics worked with Bertie, he cannot read because he is a dog, but he learned the rules. Tone of and volume of voice, gestures and facial expressions are associated with desired behaviour and the dog learns through repetition as he likes the praise and the treats and dislikes it when he is told off and ignored. As I said its not rocket science, a dog is a pack animal, Bertie just wants to be with the pack and has now found his place in it. He has been socialised.
He has internalised the simple set of codes necessary for him to be part of our society, he now understands, albeit in a simple fashion, the rules of the house. He knows life is good when he sticks to them and to all intents and purposes he has internalised the rules. We often do not need to command now as he knows by our behaviour what is about to happen and adapts his behaviour to suit. He predicts what is about to happen and the behaviours he has learned kick in.
Bertie is a primitive being living in a simple society. His socialisation emphasised the carrot over the stick, the process was probably a little more brutal for our ancestors millions of years ago. However subtle the process of socialisation it is a process of enforcement, it is where we begin to regulate behaviour be it in dogs or people.
Socialisation, often called acculturation, is the process where the culture of a society is transmitted to its children. This begins at from birth and teaches individuals to conform with the demands of social life and to inculcate the rules of their society. Primary socialisation takes place during childhood and largely within the family, whatever form that takes, and as the child is exposed to outsiders, the media, formal education, peers they begin to experience secondary socialisation into the wider world.
We sapiens exist in social groups and networks, we are social animals, we need to learn how to belong to and be accepted into social groups and networks and socialisation is the process that facilitates this. Where the process fails we end up with asocial people and the most obvious examples are feral children. “A feral child (also called wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has little or no experience of human care, behaviour, or, crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends, typically portrayed as having been raised by animals.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child
Here the exception proves the rule as having been denied socialisation they have been denied any reference to how humans behave and hence lack any social skills, feral children are rare but the examples I have read about make Bertie look like a sophisticated being.
Socialisation is the soft side of enforcement but it is an incredibly powerful force. Powerful but not completely controlling, if it were we would not be able to rebel against social norms and rules but we do. We would not be able to break laws but we do. It is all to do with the rigidity, or lack of, that drives the process of socialisation.
We are not taught how to socialise our young, we just do, so within a society that has become complex and many social variables exist so will the process of socialisation vary too. Think about the society you live in and the many cultures and sub-cultures that co-exist within it. Social reproduction is necessary for the longevity of a culture but cultural harmony is a myth that occasionally erupts into hate between different sub-cultures but that is for another day.
For now we need to understand the subtlety of enforcement through socialisation as it is far more cost effective for there to be a policemen inside our own heads than one on every street corner.
In order to navigate our way through social life successfully we move in and out of multiple roles a day, each role will be performed in a different setting with its own hierarchy and rules, to do this the human mind has evolved into a super computer capable of millions of independent thoughts, programs and simulations that it runs constantly. The ability to imagine different actions and outcomes and predict possible futures is a skill our species excels at. We know the rules, we can choose to break them, whether we do will depend on the chances of somebodies ability to enforce the rules, social sanctions like not being respected are a problem but being deprived of our liberty and even life can be on the table.
Variety is said to be the spice of life but beware the danger of externalising your set of laws and rules out to the rest of the world, what is sacred to your tribe may be profane to another tribe. We may share a common ancestor but we do not share common cultural practices, customs or beliefs. Human and social evolution have intertwined over millions of years, and over those millions of years we remained little more than intelligent animals, with the agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions there came massive cultural advances and the small bands that may have occasionally clashed over resources in the African savannah became capable of warfare on an industrial scale and beyond.
The veneer of social sophistication hides the deeply ingrained human ability to use violence as a tool. Despite all the violence is bad messages we are given throughout childhood and beyond we still see how those in power legitimise a monopoly of the use of violence in the name of social order and we acquiesce. Think of this the next time you step onto the mat, think of this the next time you feel anger when some driver carves you up, think of this too. Society is a social construct, much of it has no objective reality, it exists only in our minds, a little like the matrix, but if you are told repeatedly that what are abstract ideas and thoughts are objectively real you will come to believe it. That is the power of the process of socialisation in ensuring that the process of social reproduction is supported and enforced.
Take a minute, think about it. You think about that all you like.
Let me tell you briefly about me. My name is Selco and I am from the Balkans region, and as some of you may know it was hell here during a civil war from 1992-95. For One whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, real food distribution, or distribution of any goods, or any kind of organized law or government.
The city was surrounded for One year and in that city actually it was a true ‘Shit Hit The Fan’ situation. We were all thrown into this with no preparation, and found often our allies were our enemies from one day to the next…
Violence is something that people like to talk about, give theories and opinions, but at the same time few of us experience the real ‘deep’ face of violence, being trapped in a prolonged a deteriorating situation.
You may have experienced bar fights, or home invasions maybe, shooting somewhere and similar, and those events can be life changing situations for sure (or life taking) but I am talking here about violence so large scale and long lasting that it brings something like a ‘new way of living’, overwhelming violence that demands a complete change of mindset.
I often hear, and I often agree, that violence cannot solve anything, and that violence only brings more violence, but when you are faced with a man who wants to kill you, you are going to have to probably kill him in order to survive.
I hope that, in this moment, you will not care for philosophy, humanity or ethics, and that you just going do what you have to do, and survive. Later you will cope with other things, it is how things work.
As I get older I realize more and more that violence is wrong thing, but in the same time I also realize that I have to be more and more ready and capable to do violence when the time comes.
It is paradox maybe, but again it is how things works, I do not like that, but it is what it is.
Violence and you
It is way too big topic even to try to explain it in one article, but some things I must try to show you here.
There is a man, let’s say we are talking about you here. An average citizen, a law abiding person, and suddenly you are going to be thrown into a (prolonged) situation where you are going be forced to watch and use exceptional levels of violence.
Do you think that you are going to be able to „operate“ in those conditions with the mindset you had from the time where you were average law abiding citizen?
No of course not, you will have to jump into the another mindset in order to survive.
Let’s call it survival mode.
In survival mode you’ll have to not to forget what it was like for you in ‘normal’ times, but you will have to push those memories aside, in order to operate in different mode – survival mode.
In real life situation that means for example that you ll maybe have to ignore panic, fear, smell, noises in the middle of an attack and do your steps in order to survive.
Maybe you’ll have to ignore the screaming dying kid next to you, maybe you’ll have to ignore your pride and run, or simply maybe you’ll have to ignore your „normal“ mindset and you going to have to kill the attacker from behind.
There is list of priorities in normal life, and there is list of priorities in survival mode.
Let just say that you using your different faces and „small“ mindset during your normal life and everyday business with different people around you.
Just like that, when faced with violence you’ll have to use different mindset, different face. Or another you.
Violence and experience
There is a strange way of thinking here for me, but since I have live through the time when huge number of people did not die from old age, rather from violence, I have experience in this subject. So here are few thoughts.
Experiencing violence over a prolonged period of time does not make you superman, actually in some way make you crippled man, man with many problems, psychological and physical.
But if I put myself in way of thinking that I am in better position now then people who died next to me, or in front of me. You may call me a winner or survivor but many days that ‘title’ sounds very hollow.
Am I lucky man-yes, am I happy man – no.
But we are not talking in terms of quality of life, we are talking in terms of surviving or not.
Ethics, psychology and everything else here are matter for couple of books to be written, and even then you are not going say anything new, it is like that from beginning of the mankind. What is more important about having experience in violence is that you simply KNOW how things are working there. In lot of things you simply know what you can expect. You know what chaos is, best way of dealing with it, you know what it takes to do things.
Preparing for violence
Again nothing like real life experience, when you experience something like real violence you keep that in yourself for the rest of your life. What is best next to that? – other people’s real life experience.
So is it make sense to read about other folks real life experience?
Of course, read a lot about that.
Training (physical) yourself is great thing. You’ll train to get yourself into the state that you are (physically) ready for hard tasks. So of course it makes sense to do that.
But training yourself mentally can be a hard thing.
You actually can only guess how it is going to be, how it is going to affect you.
I can tell you that it is hard, chaotic, I can describe you a situation, but can I bring you the feeling of terror in your gut when you feel that you are going to shit yourself? Can I give you smell of fear, smell of decaying body? Can I give you feeling when you realize that „they“ are coming for you?
No of course I cannot. You can read stories and real life experiences and based on that you are going to „build“ your possible mindset for violence situation.
You are going to build your „survival mindset“.
But there is a catch there. If you build it too firm, too strong, and then there is SHTF and everything that you imagined doesn’t fit the given situation or scenario and you are still pursuing and acting in the way that you imagine dealing with it you are going to have serious problems.
The situation will not adapt to your mindset; the situation will kill you if you are sticking too firm to your plan when it is not working.
You simply have to adapt.
It goes for many situation, if your plan and mindset says you are defending your home until you die, you are going to die probably.
Whenever I heard people saying „I’ll do that when SHTF „ or „I’ll do this when SHTF“ I feel sorry for them.
When SHTF you will adapt, and change your given plan accordingly to situation.
It is same with violence.
Violence is a tool that you going to use according to the situation. It is a tool, not a toy.
Now to finish with a final thought. It can sound, from what I have written, that a SHTF situation is like a Mad Max movie. Everyone running around killing, hurting doing things with no consequences. In fact, this fantasy of a world ‘Without Rule of Law’ (WROL) is a big discussion in some circles.
For sure regular ‘law’ has gone. There are no ‘authorities’ or courts as we know them to deter or punish, BUT, during a SHTF situation you will find….
It is (especially in the beginning) like everything is possible, law is gone, you could go outside and see people looting stores, groups organizing (by street, or other facts like same job in company for example) trying to either defend part of the town, or bring more chaos just for fun, sometimes you could not say what, both could bring violence and death to you. Over time the ‘violence’ becomes more organized and ‘structured’ to start to achieve certain specific goals (although there is always ‘chaos’ as well).
After some time you look at violence you encounter in two ways. Violence happening outside your group, or inside your group (It is quite certain you will need to be in some sort of ‘group’ to stand any chance of surviving).
Outside your Group, you just wish to be very ‘small’, invisible after some time, not pay attention to anyone doing violence to others, because, quite simply you are still alive, and want to stay that way. In terms of “I am still alive, I do not care what they doing to that person, and how bad it is (your will and judging of good and bad is broken, you just care for your own life) it is like you care only for yourself while you are watching how others get killed, no matter that you feel that it is going to come to you in the end (violence) you just care for yourself.
Leaders of the “bad” group (gang) have best chances to stay leader if members fear him, so in fact he is most dangerous, vicious, sick bastard, nothing like a “reasonable” man. (Competition is huge in SHTF) Instilling discipline (through fear) and enforcing ‘your’ rules are paramount to holding your position as leader.
Various groups were interacting with the outside world and each other through fighting, exchange information, trading goods etc, but every group were more or less closed world, with trust only for those inside the group.
Forming of a group was quick mostly, because nobody expected this situation was going to happen, and so were not prepared, but very quickly were literally ‘fighting for survival’. Any problems were solved “on the way” (bad members, not skilled, not obeying etc.) Sometimes through discussion and agreement, but always with the threat of violence as an option.
To finish, and to educate, as opposed to shock you. Many folks cannot think to clear about the level of violence I am describing being involved in. Maybe you think SHTF is just like ‘Black Friday Shopping’ but every day. So let me just give examples of the how far the world I lived in descended from ‘normal’. Remember this was a regular city, in a nice country, in Europe, less than 25 years ago…
-People who never used violence before, doing some ‘hard’ violence: normal people, dads and mums, killing folks in order to save their families.
-Certain groups of people who looks like they are just waited for the SHTF so they can go out (“crawl beneath some rock”) so they can fulfill their own fantasies about being kings of the town, imprisoning people, raping women, torturing folks in the weirdest ways…
-Strange groups organizing in whatever the cause they choose name it, again only to gain power in order to have more resources (sometimes simply “gangs” of 50 people, sometimes whole militias of thousands people) through terror over other people or group of people.
-Irrational hate towards “other” (whoever “other” could (or might) be (other religion, group, street, town, nation) because it is very easy to manipulate groups of people through hate and fear (from and towards “others”), if someone manipulate you that your kid is hungry because “others”, he can do a lot with you.
Real life examples I saw:
-People being burned alive inside their homes (And people ‘enjoying’ watching this)
-Private prisons were made where you could go and torture other folks for fun, or rape women as a “reward”
-Kids over 13 or 14 years of age were simply “counted” as grown up people, and killed as enemy
-Humiliation of people on all different ways in order to break their will, for example forcing prisoners to have sex between same family (like father and daughter and similar)
-Violence was everyday thing, you could go outside and get shot not because you were ‘enemy’, but only because sniper on other side want to test his rifle
You’re going to get some homework with this article. But you’ll be a better communicator for it. If nothing else, it will help you articulate why you did what you did when being polite didn’t work.
Forbes Magazine ran a web article, ” 21 Ways To Leave A Never-Ending Conversation Without Being Rude.”
It’s a pretty good article. Being as it’s business, the assumption is you don’t want to be rude. It gives nice socially acceptable — and polite — exit strategies to get away from folks who — if we’re being charitable — just don’t know when to shut up. If we’re not being charitable, they’re time/energy vampires. If we’re being practical, they could be something worse.
Part of what you’re going to learn here is how to get this last type to reveal themselves but using manners, politeness and social rules of conduct. From there a different set of tactics is required. Up to and including having to throw them out a window. And no. I’m not joking.
Establishing two data points and two subpoints before we move on.
DP#1: Some years ago Rory started teaching his “levels of violence.’ It goes: Nice people manipulator, assertive, aggressive, assaultive and homicidal. Well technically it’s a visual that starts at the bottom and works up:
I really like this model because it so clearly shows several important dynamics. The visual helps track how ‘nice’ falls to ‘manipulative,’ manipulative falls to assertive, assertive folds against aggressive, etc.. You can see how folks aren’t too fond of going too high up the ladder. There’s also a lot of stuff that’s involved about how we’re comfortable with one level, and while we may go up one, in actuality, we spend most of our time lower — but often threaten we’ll bump it up if we have to (e.g., we use the threat of assault [aggression] WAY more than we actually strike). Still another is the model helps clarify how far away we are from actual physical danger.
DP#2: Much of what we do is scripted behavior. These are ‘short cuts,’ formulaic, cued behaviors and responses to common situations. Scripts are a big part of our lives and behaviors. When cued we respond, mostly by route, but with variations. “Excuse me. Could you pass the salt?” “Certainly” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.”
The example I just used is what Rory and I call a “microscript.” These short, almost ritualistic, exchanges are very strongly tied to etiquette. They are also a weird blend of conscious, subconscious and unconscious mental processing. As such, break them at your own peril. At the same time, watch for people breaking them — as these breeches are the source of a great deal of our emotional discomfort and anger.
You have to know those data points for the subpoints to make sense.
Subpoint A: We rely on people 1) picking up the cues to prompt desired behaviors and 2) their cooperation with these scripts. This saves us from having to be assertive and the risk being turned down (Go to Youtube and type in “RSA Animate, Language as a window into human nature.” I warned you, homework.) This allows us to stay on the lower levels and avoid violence and conflict.
Subpoint B: Nice people have trouble with manipulators because they exploit the ‘rules of balance’ inherent in scripts. While we all use social scripts to our advantages, manipulators abuse the give-and-take nature of social scripts. What should be an equal ‘economy’ is tilted in the manipulator’s favor by the manipulator’s exploiting the taking aspects of scripts. They use the inherent compassion, cooperation, humanistic ideals and the standards of being ‘nice’ to take more than their share. For example, the ‘friend’ [or coworker] who is always asking you for favors, but isn’t there when you need one.
Now that we’ve laid these foundations we can turn our attention to the person who just won’t let you bow out. We’ll use this as an introduction to a bigger topic. That person is taking too much of your time. But we’re not at how to handle them yet. What we’ve covered thus far is critical for distinguishing between different motivations. Assessing that, tells us how to handle them.
Fact of life time: There are a lot of socially inept people out there. People who –short of you sending up a bright red balloon — will miss subtle social cues. The whys are many but most of them aren’t coming from malice. (Keep that in mind because you handle them differently than the malicious.) Still others you just have to flat out tell them what you want. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are with being direct, with certain people you have to be. Again this often isn’t out of malice, it’s more how they are wired or were raised. With both kinds, you don’t want to go nuclear on them. Or even if you do, don’t. They don’t deserve your unbridled fury — and if you do, then the asshole in the situation isn’t the other person.
The need for the Forbes article is it addresses these people. It’s for when you’re sincerely trying to be a nice person and he/she just isn’t getting the hint. The suggested strategies send up a balloon that is so big that even a socially myopic person will see. Another added benefit of the Forbes article is it helps you learn ways to obviously — but politely — boost the signal. That’s the other side of the coin. It may not be that the other person is socially inept. It could be you aren’t communicating clear enough. So for either dealing with the socially unaware person or you not signaling loud enough, the Forbes article is useful to turn up the volume of “Time to let me go.”
I will point to another benefit of learning different ways to say “I have to leave.” That’s it is a step in learning how to be assertive. Remember, that step past manipulative? Yeah, it’s a small step because a lot of polite exit strategies are little white lies, but hey… you’re further along than you were before. Oh BTW, Terry, ‘assertive’ is scary to nice people, it can require aversion therapy and inoculation to work up to being direct. (And in case you, the reader, are wondering about that weird sentence … Terry Trahan asked, “What’s the matter with just being direct?” I didn’t get a chance to answer him when he asked that very good question. So now you, the reader, get to hear the answer too.) Learning other ways you have more than just one strategy — which is a good thing.
A common question I hear is “But what if polite doesn’t work?” Well, the Forbes article is step one in fixing that. Sending up that red balloon is not rude. It’s making sure the signal is clear. However, step two is where we break free from the Forbes article. But the direction we break is influenced by data point #1.
Another thing I hear is nice people waffling about acting to put an end to unacceptable behavior. This often in the form of, “What if I’m wrong?”
Which hey, if you’re talking about defenestration (throwing someone out a window), worrying about making a bad call makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is when the same person is asking both questions. Don’t they get that the two points work together?
If polite don’t work, then we know this isn’t normal. If clear-but-polite doesn’t work it’s a moved onto step three. A step that clearly puts us into the Levels. It’s time to mentally shift gears because it’s no longer innocent. The person has just announced that he’s putting something he wants over and above social protocol as well as your wants and needs. Is defenestration on the table yet? Well no. But it just walked into the room. Why? Because he has made a conscious decision to ignore protocol and put his wants before everyone else’s.
Recap, there’s lots and lots of levels, stages, tactics and strategies you can use between polite and defenestration. The more adept at these levels you are, the less likely you are to make a mistake. See someone who is just socially unaware will let you go when they see the big red balloon of “I gotta go.” Red balloon goes up, is seen, behavior changes and situation is over. Alright what does that tell us? Well, you just needed to be more overt. Overt doesn’t mean rude. Although many of the “what if…” types don’t know that, it’s true.
What’s important is watch for the person who sees the overt signal and ignores it. This is a form of what is called “Discounting no.” It’s both a game changer and a not-to-be-ignored signal. When you set an obvious verbal boundary and someone just blows through it as if it’s fog, they’ve just told you in no uncertain terms that they’re up to something.
But — before you throw someone out the window — you might want to try giving being polite another shot. Make the message very clear. (Kind of like tying a flashing light to that red balloon.) This does five things. One it confirms that being polite didn’t work. Two, it removes doubt that this is accidental or unwitting behavior on his part. Three, it gives you a “Well, I tried” permission to act. Four is if you have to explain your actions later you can truthfully say you tried being polite –repeatedly — and you changed tactics only because polite didn’t work. (As you will be called on the mat for any use of force, it helps if you can explain how you went through “ask, tell and order” before you went hands on) Five it blows any and all pretext that this situation was kosher. This may look like two, but it’s not. While most manipulators will back off when facing assertive, other folks will try to bump it to aggressive. While this is usually a face saving retreat (‘Elvis has left the building’ style), it can also reveal that their intentions were hostile all along. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s a need to know. What a lot of nice people don’t realize is even if it gets emotionally unpleasant, emotionally unpleasant ‘fixes’ are a lot easier than things getting to defenestration. So let’s look at these easier fixes.
The reason why it’s called ‘discounting no’ — is when someone wants something, you say ‘no,’ and they keep on pestering you for it. You know this routine. You might have done it as a kid. “Mom can I have a candy bar?” “No” “Why can’t I have a candy bar?” (Reason given.) “But I want a candy bar!”
From that childhood example we can see several things. One is the general dynamic. Two, the deliberate ignoring of a clearly communicated ‘no’ answer. Three the predictable strategies — especially the faux-request for “why.” This is followed by rejection of the reasons (as in they aren’t good enough). Four is the continued pressing for selfish reasons. (Hint, the counter is “Asked, answered, subject closed.”) Five is escalation.
At best discounting no is selfish, at worst it’s dangerous. (It’s a common tactic before physical violence.) From moment the ‘discounting no’ becomes clear, your goal has changed. Now, you’re oriented on stopping whatever he’s up to — using whatever means necessary. To figure out how to do that, we need to go back to scripts.
Scripted behavior allows for millions of us to live in close proximity. There are all kinds of rules for different levels of intimacy and relationships. You behave differently to a stranger than you do a family member. That’s the first set of filters to spot when something is off. Is this person asking too much or angling for something beyond the type of relationship you to have? Let’s pick one, say — distance. We allow people we are involved with to get closer to us than strangers. No brainer right? Well, actually way more complicated than you thought. For example greater stranger distance is the rule. While there are certain exceptions — those exceptions have very strict protocols and etiquette. Think of in a crowded elevator or a waitress. Your spouse standing close is no problem. But a stranger crowding you can be a manipulation to get you to move. Start watching to see how many of these unwritten rules you can identify and when someone should keep a distance. Why should you do this? So you can better understand this next point.
Scripts can also be looked at as a lazy man’s version of boundaries. Boundaries are established and maintained by the script. (Think of elevator scripts, what you say and where you stand are predictable.) These scripts have become automatic habits to the point we often assume that’s all we have to do. When they don’t work, we get flustered. Another way of looking at scripts is microwave dinners. Prepackaged, just pop them in, push a few buttons and there you have it. The problem with microwave dinners is you don’t learn how to cook. So if the microwave breaks down, you’re at a loss.
Someone who discounts ‘no’ is trying to short out your microwave. A lot of the time he’s relying on you not being able — much less willing — to do something about it. If people (who he can short them out) are lucky, he’s just going to act like a snotty kid and do what he wants. A lot of times, it can be a way worse. But it usually won’t start out that bad. As the saying goes, “Great storms are preceded by a small breeze.” Before these people really get going, they’ll test to see if you know how to stand up for yourself. How do they do this? With the small stuff.
The problem is, that test looks exactly the same as someone who is just socially unaware. That’s why you float the red balloon and see what happens. If the person is socially unaware you — without being rude — extract yourself. But if you see him look at the balloon, and keep on coming, then he’s tipped his hand.
Now you understand why assessing intent is so important.
When he tips his hand, you don’t have to be polite anymore either — well let me rephrase that. You don’t have to be rude either, but from that moment on you aren’t relying on manners, scripts and social conventions to do all the work of enforcing your boundaries. You’re going to have to take a more active part. And if that means throwing his ass out a third story window … well, that’s what it’s going to take.
But usually they’ll back off long before that — as long as you can communicate you know what’s going on. Let’s keep this at the lower end of the scale. By clearly communicating it’s time for you to go, you have moved up the scale from a nice person to an assertive person. Now the manipulator is in a fix. This leaves him no other choice than to try to either plead or tip his hand. Plead with you to stay (which hey, “you got fifteen seconds to finish”) or drop the pretense that his goals aren’t selfish and manipulative. If he gets angry, that’s fine too. Like I said it’s usually an Elvis has left the building retreat. “Oh I was assertive and you’re responding by becoming aggressive. Well thank you for telling me what’s the appropriate response.” Which believe it or not is not becoming aggressive, but cranking up the assertive. You can still be polite, but he’s using social scripts against you, so you don’t have to abide by them either.
Why? People often win by not just moving up a level, but pretending that they’re willing to go to the next one. Thing is, they’re usually not. This bluff is how they intimidate people. They’re good at bluffing. They get what they want through aggression because you’re scared they’ll become assaultive. But the never had any intent of taking that far. They only win because you chicken out. And you need to know something, they’re good at spotting when others are bluffing too. So if you get all excited and huff and puffy, he knows you’re bluffing. But if you’re calmly shifting gears to match him, that’s where you run into the paradox.
That is that often the willingness to use violence means you don’t have to. Someone who is polite and has no other tools is easily run over. Someone who is afraid of using violence sucks at convincing people he’s not afraid. The unwillingness to use force is what both the bluffer and the assaultive person is looking for. That is the person it is safe to aggress on, including physically attacking.
But the person who shrugs and shifts gears to whatever level this person wants to play at… well, leave that one alone. It’s not safe to mess with that one. You’d be amazed how effective being polite while calmly figuring the trajectory to the window can be at deterring escalation. In other words, instead of worrying about “What if the strategies don’t work?” think of a strategy not working as telling you it’s time to shift gears. “Okay, tried that, didn’t work. Next.” Once you get the hang of this approach, you’d be amazed at how fast trouble takes one look at you and moves onto the next target.
This interview is with an officer in a small European OMC (Outlaw Motorcycle Club) and is one of the few full-patched female members of any club. Many details have been changed to protect the identities of everyone involved. You can assume that all names, dates and places have been either omitted or changed.
CRGI– Your club lives largely outside the law. How do you handle things like theft and breaking contracts, the kind of thing that most citizens would bring to the law?
MC– The story I want to tell started in 2013. We got two new prospects in autumn and they started to run their one year probation. In spring 2014 we made a party for our guests. Out treasurer asked the prospect R. to pay his club fees but he told him he hadn’t enough money. Some hours later R. came and handed 50 Euros to the treasurer saying his wife had given the money to him. Late at night the treasurer counted the amount in the register and 50 Euros had been missing. He suspected R. immediately but I told him that there must have happened a mistake because nobody has stolen money from the MC as long as I’m a member. I also told him that there was no evidence and everybody behind the counter could have taken the money. R. paid his fees on time later on and behaved normal.
CRGI– Many citizens have the idea that an OMC is vicious and quick to take things into their own hands. Wasn’t this enough evidence to do something about it? Why was it so important to you to be sure?
MC– Of course we’re capable of doing things quick and vicious if needed. We also don’t call the cops, we’re solving our “problems” on our own. The main principles in our MC are faith and honesty. I’ll have to trust on my bros in every situation. Whether in riding, fighting or having problems. And they trust in me 100% too.
Blaming somebody having broken the most important rules is a severe matter. Of course for the defendant but also for the accuser. Blaming on somebody without having enough evidence could be dangerous and can drop back on the accuser when turned out to be wrong. Blaming with enough evidences will cause an action by the members. And this action almost includes a kind of punishment, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The range is wide. Starting with harsh words from the president to being beaten, severely wounded and kicked off of the MC.
MC– Later, R put a 1% patch on his vest and though we explained him the meaning of that special sign he insisted of wearing it because he felt like an “onepercenter” and would act in the same way.
CRGI– What’s the significance of a 1%er tab?
MC- Wearing a 1% in my country means that the biker is following his own rules and the rules of his MC. He really doesn’t care about rules or laws from state, police etc. The biker decides what he wants to do and gives a shit on law and order. His rules and the rules of the MC always come first.
CRGI- Was R allowed to award himself that patch? Is there a usual protocol and did he violate it? When a prospect insists on something over the objections of patched members, what is going on? Is there a normal corrective response?
MC-We’re having our MC statutes of course. But these don’t include the wearing of that patch. Everyone is free to design his vest as he wants to. Of course he has to take the responsibility for every patch or badge.
Insisting of wearing this 1% patch would cause the patched members watching him being beaten if he would be involved in a fight. They only would stand around and say “Come on and fight. Finally you’re stating that you’re a 1%er and we told you enough about it.” Did he insist on other things the patched members told him and he won’t obey he would be punished or kicked off from the MC. There are different varieties of punishment and some are really humbling.
It starts at the lowest level with a harsh speech from a member, then of the president. The next stage would be to stitch a loud pink and broad ribbon all over the backpatch. The ribbon includes the inscription “Club punishment”. And the punished had to wear it and show himself in public with it for a determined time. The worst punishment (except from being beaten and kicked off) would be to be forced to cut down the backpatch and walk around with nothing or get back the probationary backpatch which would even be very humiliating for every full member.
CRGI– What happened next?
MC– The summer party was celebrated and the treasurer kept a wary eye on R. but he didn’t see anything suspicious. The autumnal party also passed by without any problems. Meanwhile the treasurer had placed a small register with some cash float behind the counter, in case of visitors who would buy some drinks. He took the “big” register we use for the parties home. Four days later R. had to open the clubhouse two hours earlier to light the fireplace. When the other members arrived he told them that he found the entrance door unlocked. But he had checked the whole clubhouse and nothing would be missing. The other members checked the clubhouse too and somebody found out that the small register was missing. The two guys who locked up the clubhouse after the party couldn’t explain how they could forget to check the door before leaving. They felt bad about that for months. Somebody suspected a former member having a second key and we changed the lock and all keys.
Then we voted for full membership of R. (acceptance of every member is needed to become a full member) and I refused because I didn’t trust R. I couldn’t explain, it was my gut instincts which told me to refuse. Even the president was the same opinion. We discussed a long time and at last the other members persuaded us to say yes. The president told R. that the acceptance was by a hair and that R. would have to show his loyalty.
CRGI- The other members were not suspicious at all?
MC– As I told you, the main principle is faith. And this had never happened before. Some of our members are true friends for more than twenty years. In an “inner circle” we spoke about possible suspects but there was not one single evidence suspecting other members. The two guys accused by R. to having forgotten to lock the door felt uncertain and had self-doubts for weeks.
In a meeting I looked daggers at our youngest patched member while talking about the thieving. Just to test his reaction. Later he told me that he was scared to death that we would suspect him without having done anything wrong. Everybody of us felt really bad that time, and sad of course. Being duped by a person you normally would commit your life, freedom and health hurts.
CRGI– What happened next?
MC– The last spring party was a success and our treasurer went around with a donation can. We got this from a last wish foundation for cancer suffering children and the guests put a lot of money into the can. The next meeting I mentioned in passing that the can was pretty full and ready to be passed to the foundation. I did this with a special intention because I knew that R. has big financial problems that time and had to leave his home because he stole electricity with an illegal mounted cable from his landlord.
CRGI– Biker clubs do charity and outreach work in the US as well. It’s a little off our main subject, but would you like to talk about it?
MC– Other MCs organize toy runs, blood donations, round-trips in sidecars for disabled people etc. We’re doing some charity by collecting donations but we’re also trying to treat people in the same way as we want to be treated. That means eg; helping if there was any accident, bullying or harassment of helpless people. We butt in, we don’t look the other way.
CRGI– Back to the story of R.
MC– One week later R. was in the clubhouse before the other members arrived. He seemed to be very nervous and was leaving as soon as possible. Later that evening I routinely checked the counter area with the club cellphone, the music computer and the donation can, which was missing. We immediately called every absent member (except R.) but nobody knew where the can could be. We also searched the whole clubhouse but the can was lost.
Before I left I placed the new bought small register in a special way and memorized the exact position. Gut instincts again, ok.
We started to think and discuss the thefts without telling R. because after collecting any possible fact and summing up there could be only one offender: R. And suddenly R. started to ask suspicious questions during the next week like “when will be the initiation of my backpatch to confirm my membership” etc. He always watches his opponent very exactly like looking for any hint of knowing something. But nobody told him a single word.
The next meeting I told the bros that we would find the register without any money and I was right. It was moved to another position and 30 Euros were missing. Unnecessary to say that R. had different excuses not to come to the meetings after the can was missing.
The president was so upset that he promised to beat this asshole close to death, rip all his clothes and force him to walk naked through the streets while his vest would burn on our campfire together with his bike. He also promised to drive to R.’s new home, took the pump gun with him, threaten and/or shoot R. and look for the can. (I have to mention that in my country you can’t own a pump gun or other firearms legally, except you’re a hunter, shooter in a club, personal security etc. with a proven license. But MC members always get and own what they need to defend their home and their MC.) Our president is a true “one percenter” who’s living on his own terms and so we had some problems to persuade him not to kill R. We’re having some peaceful members which didn’t agree and argued a lot.
CRGI– To your knowledge, how common is it for an OMC in your country to kill one of their own members? Would it ever be a decision of the entire club? Or would one member act on his own? Or would the senior leadership make the call?
MC- If done it mostly happens in the very big MCs here. It’s not happening every day but the number is increasing since many members with migration background have entered the big MCs and they’re defecting from the rules of the “old school members”. As far as I know the senior leadership usually makes the call and one or more member are executing. He/they also would take the blame if being arrested. There’s no exact knowledge of the background because nobody talks about it. In our MC the prez would decide and execute on his own if necessary. There’s no doubt.
CRGI– Interesting. Go on.
MC-I was at the president’s home in the garden because he asked me for some help and I’m very skilled at gardening. He was still in rage as suddenly R. and his wife arrived and came to the backyard. R. handed out his backpatch, obviously expecting the return of the 75 Euro pawn he had to pay when he got it. But he wasn’t able to tell his intentions because the president hit his head with the fist immediately and smashed him to the next wall. He moved that fast without any sign that R. was totally surprised. The president is 1,95 meters tall and 175 kilograms, R. is 1,70 meters and 95 kilograms. R. started screaming “stop, what are you doing” while the president continued to hit his head again and again with one fist while using the other hand to fix R. at the wall. R. didn’t fight back, he only crooked and tried to protect his head. (1%??? Phhh!)
His wife tried to interact, I intervened and pushed her away. I still had my (nearly closed and locked) clippers in my hand when I did that and scratched her forearm from wrist to elbow with the blade because she tried to beat me. No deep cut but skin was missing and some blood coming. I stood in front of her and said I would severely hurt her if she would try to barge in again. She stepped backwards and didn’t move any more. Meanwhile the president was still beating R. yelling, “you’ve stolen from your brothers, confess”. R. denied, screaming. The president stopped beating, grabbed R.’s throat and started choking him, asking again:” you’ve stolen, confess”. R. denied twice again his face changing into purple red, blue, tongue coming out. With his last breath he whispered “yes” and the president opened his hands. Then R. stood in front of us, gasping for air, sobbing and confessing all the thefts, explaining that they had no food, no diapers for the child etc. I think he got a concussion too because he hold his head and started to be cross-eyed. Not my problem and no pity.
The president told him to appear to the next meeting and bring 300 Euros with him. He also reassured that R. wouldn’t harmed if he would appear and bring the money. Otherwise the former brothers would make a private visit with all possible conclusions. He also told R. not to do anything stupid concerning every member or the MC e.g. telling stories to the police etc. otherwise “We know your name, your address and your family. And the forest out there is large, dark and contains a lot of lonely and deep holes!”
At last his wife told her friend that I attacked her with the clippers and that R. was forced to confess. But nothing else happened. Some days ago R. appeared with two independent companions from a Christian MC on the meeting (he was too afraid to come alone) still with nice blue marks around his throat and in the face and handed 300 euro to the MC. The president told the members not to touch R. because he had given his word and he would beat everyone like R. who wouldn’t comply with. The members obeyed. He forbid R. to set one foot into our area and also prohibited being a member in every MC. Otherwise he would draw the consequences and his new backpatch would be ripped (and possibly a little more).
R. is still out in bad standing and as far as I know he will never appear at the MC scene again. He knows well enough what will happen if he would do. I also know what will happen if some of my brothers would meet him random. I informed the local MCs about R., put it on our website and placed an extra ad in the biker magazine. So R. is banned. If he’s clever he and his wife will stay where they are and not say one word about the incident. If not I’m pretty sure that our MC will make a visit.
“We were wild animals for seven million years. We learned a lot of lessons. We should be careful not to lose them.”-Lee Child
Let’s keep that quote in mind as we compare a couple of definitions, the first—
Domesticated or Domestication, (from the Latin domesticus: “of the home”) is the cultivating or taming of a population of organisms in order to accentuate traits that are desirable to the cultivator or tamer.
For today’s lesson it is important that we hew closely to the scientific definition of this word. Merely finding a baby squirrel and keeping it as a pet is not by strict definition “domesticating” that animal, you are merely acculturating it to abnormal surroundings and there is a high probability that this “taming” will not survive sexual maturity. This is a lesson hard learned by chimpanzee and big cat owners, often what begins as an exercise in cuteness ends in the animal being what it is-wild. By the way, never the animal’s fault, it is merely being what it is-a wild animal.
Domestication by strict definition is a process of thousands of years or hundreds of bred-for generations to render a species more docile or yielding to human wishes.
A poetic but stark definition of domestication is the bred-for breaking of a species’ spirit over time to make us, the owner, happy.
The second word to be defined is Civilization.
We are not using the word in the broad sense of the combined progress and adaptation of social man to his environment, but rather, again, in a clinical sense. Man is not a domesticated animal in the strict sense of the word, as he was not purposely bred for tameness, as we have done with wolves to give us cute puppies, or predatory big cats that we have bred to be lazy window-sill nappers.
Man has never been subject to this strict purposeful breeding program so we are not domesticated, but voluntarily choose to be tame, or civilized. In this definition to be civilized is to voluntarily assume the mantle of a domesticated animal.
Man, in theory, can do what a dog or cat cannot do, we can revert to our wild state by choice. Yes, dogs can attack and cats can claw but no one will mistake their attempts at “wildness” for that of their ancestors. Man, on the other hand, can be just as wild as his primitive forebears as in essence he still walks around with the same body and the same brain that walked the savanna millions of years ago.
The same can’t be said for the Pekinese or Siamese at your feet begging for treats.
That bit of “Yeah, I’m a bad-ass caveman but I choose to be civilized and go all primal when I need to” may make some of us feel pretty fine indeed.
But is the choice of civilizing ourselves just a few shades off from domestication?
Just how quickly can we lose our primal abilities?
Let’s look outside our own species for a moment to another species, a highly intelligent one at that. Let’s see what happens when we remove it from the wild, attempt to tame it, and then do an about-face and attempt to free it back into the wild.
The below is from dolphin trainer Tom Foster’s account of trying to re-wild two wild dolphin, Tom and Misha, to prepare them for their release. [The following is from the excellent article “Born to Be Wild” by Tim Zimmerman in National Geographic 6/2015, pages 68-69.]
[Keep in mind the following account regards two wild animals that were born in the wild, captured and kept in captivity for a few years. These animals were not born in captivity.]
“…Foster didn’t see how he could restore Tom and Misha to the Olympic level of fitness they would need to survive in the ocean if he didn’t put them through a regimen of fast swims, jumps, and tail walks that would build muscle and stamina. ‘The only way is to train them so you can untrain them, he says.”
‘High-energy workouts require calories, so the first job was to overcome Tom and Misha’s picky eating habits and reacquaint them with the fish they would likely encounter in the Aegean, such as mullet, anchovies, and sardines. The strategy was to offer them a local fish species. If they ate it, they were rewarded with mackerel, a fish they developed a taste for in captivity. To mimic the unpredictability of food in the wild, Foster varied the amount and frequency of their meals. ‘When you bring them into captivity, everything from feeding to shows is very structured,’ he says. They develop a built-in clock and can tell exactly when they are going to get fed. We have to turn that around, because we know that in the wild they will eat more one day than another.’”
Now, I’m sure you’re way ahead of me by this point. A wild species that got fat and lazy due to a lack of exercise, regular meals, and finicky eating habits. Hmm? Sounds like we’re talking about…who?
OK, back to Tom and Misha two “civilized” dolphins, a creature of high intelligence with a remarkable cranial capacity (just like another species we know.)
“Foster also wanted to wake up their highly capable dolphin brains. He dropped into the pen things they may not have seen for years, like an octopus or a jellyfish or a crab. He cut holes along the length of a PVC tube, stuffed it full of dead fish, and then plunked it into the water. Tom and Misha had to figure out how to manipulate the tube so that the fish would pop out of the holes. ‘In captivity we train the animals not to think on their own, to shut down their brains and to do what we ask them to do,’ Foster explains. ‘What we are trying to do when we release them into the wild is get them off autopilot and thinking again.’”
Hmm? Brains on autopilot. Atrophied ability to think for themselves without predictable structure. We are talking about dolphins, right?
Allow me to call our attention again to Foster’s comment on how to “civilize” a wild animal: “In captivity we train the animals not to think on their own, to shut down their brains and to do what we ask them to do.”
So, to be clear it is absolutely possible to take a wild animal, even one as hyper-intelligent as a dolphin and to atrophy its physical and mental prowess with as little as a few years of captivity.
No, this is not domestication, not in any sense of the word…but the level of training required to wean a wild animal off of its civilization and to make it fit to be wild again is indeed food for thought.
A few years of civilization atrophied these animals’ natural abilities. What might a lifetime of civilization do? Generations?
Does voluntary civilization, and generations of it at that as opposed to one generation of catch and capture, compound the atrophy problem?
To be clear, this essay is not an anti-civilization and all its attendant benefits screed. No, instead it is intended as food for thought to an audience of individuals who consider honing self-protection skills, survival ability, self-reliance, independent thinking, and overall fitness as valuable.
With that intention in mind I ask us to pause and reflect to what extent have we ourselves possibly chosen voluntary domestication? And at what costs?
A key question at this point might be, is there a biological mechanism that points to us being able to lose physical and cognitive abilities in a remarkably short amount of time? A biological driver that once atrophied actually reduces our ability to even think about regarding some of these long lost abilities?
Without such a concrete mechanism this discussion is just philosophical piffle, or just another opinion piece.
So, is there such a biological driver?
It turns out there is. And this also comes from animal studies and we just may not like the animal that most resembles us in our current state.
We’ll cover that in Part 2. The Mechanism of Civilizing a Wild Animal.
Until then, have a second read of that quote:
“We were wild animals for seven million years. We learned a lot of lessons. We should be careful not to lose them.”-Lee Child